More Israelis Using Gray Water to Keep Their Gardens Green

Gray water, or sullage - waste water generated from domestic processes such as dishwashing, laundry and bathing - is becoming a hot topic among environmental organizations and activists seeking to reduce water consumption. But after the Health Ministry announced recently that it opposes using gray water in homes out of concern for bacterial exposure, it seems the widespread use of such water remains far in the future.

While there are no figures indicating how many people use such water systems in Israel, Amir Yehiel, an expert in water reuse, says the possibilities are endless. He himself installed a water pipe system in his Jerusalem home to transfer water from his shower and washing machine to irrigate his garden, without resorting to any filtration or purification methods.

"I try to use more environmentally-friendly materials, so that they are better for irrigation," he said. "This brings significant savings in water expenses. I don't use kitchen tap water, because it's more polluted and has more of a stench."

The Health Ministry encourages consumers to use water systems supervised by local authorities, but has yet to authorize a gray water facility in Ganei Tikva using water from homes to irrigate plants in the community, despite the support of civil engineers and planners for the program.

Ministry official David Weinberg said, "No one wants their child to play on grass that the neighbor has washed himself in. It may be that building a system using gray water violates the law and building codes," he said.

Still, at the initiative of the environmental organization Shomera, the Health Ministry has authorized an experimental study into water reuse at a Jerusalem mikveh (ritual bath).